Review : Malajube - Labyrinthes
Pitchfork"Malajube's music is labyrinthine," Pitchfork's Brian Howe wrote by way of praising the French Montreal band's breakout sophomore album, Trompe-l'Oeil , in 2006. With their city then under the indie rock microscope, Malajube (still say it MAL-a-zhoob) scanned as yet more ramshackle hyper-pop, language less a barrier than a Dungen-esque point of difference-- when it counted, say on the hook to commercial-bait standout "Montréal -40°C", these inaugural Polaris Music Prize nominees sounded no more francophone than, I dunno, Electric Light Orchestra. Media hype now gone home, Malajube up the labyrinthine stakes on Labyrinthes , daring re-entry. It's not for the faint of heart-- or the fain to double back.
How do you say "gone all prog" en français ? The change is as much context as content-- multipart Trompe mini-epics "La Monogamie" and "Le Crabe" already were reminiscent of contemporaries such as Mew-- but jarring structural changes are the norm on Labyrinthes , suggesting Malajube's former "progressive emo jam band" MySpace descriptor may have been more apt than absurd. Six-minute opener "Ursuline" boldly announces the new approach-- and, if you understand the submerged lyrics (or read the interviews), the Catholicism/mortality-minded lyrical themes-- as blistering guitar solos, chopsy drumming, and portentous chants descend upon a placid piano intro, leaving only church bells in their wake. Juxtapositions juice a couple of the best songs: "Casablanca", which veers from hazy Tropicália-tinged pop to a fleet-fingered guitar coda, and "333", all gallops and screeches and echoes except when its inner "Dust in the Wind" breaks out....full text
PastemagazineNot too long ago, Quebeçois cred was a reliable guarantee for at least a half-year of positive blog press. Yet rather than exploit the francophile fad after their breakout sophomore album, 2006’s Trompe-L’Oiel, Malajube weathered the calls to sign a major-label deal and sing in English. True to their word, Labyrinthes expands the band’s dedication to spiky and playful musicality. Frontman Julien Mineau says the album is knotted with a “ribbon of religious imagery” which explores the continuing cultural presence of Catholicism in Quebec, even for atheists like he. Faith (and lack thereof) pulses deep through these 10 tracks; “Give me the power to offend / evil and men / my skeleton and my flesh / buried in the ground,” Mineau howls on the sweeping synth-punk opener “Ursuline."
As the name and cover art might suggest, Labyrinthes’ treatment of religion’s permutations is nearly as mazelike as its song structures, rife with instrumental interludes and stylistic mash-ups. Single “Porté Disparu” fuses punchy burlesque pianos with breezy guitars, while “333” dashes to the other end of the spectrum and overlays strings onto Iron Maiden-worthy riffs as Mineau muses, “You rent and sell your soul / because you want to live forever.” Malajube’s ear for catchy, buoyant pop makes even morbid notions (“I know that one day / I’ll be eaten by bugs”) a rallying cry for living in the moment rather than an existential crisis. The album’s meditations on what follows the mortal coil are as sweeping as the gulf between its genres, but both are handled with rewardingly nuanced subtlety....full text
BbcMalajube are a four piece from Canada, refreshing in their resolute decision to make music only in their native French, despite the commercial pressure for them to appeal to the English-speaking masses. The thing is, if the quartet keep on making tunes this catchy, les Anglais are going to keep loving them regardless.
They've got things to prove on the follow up to 2004's Le Compte Complet and 2006's multi award-winning Trompe-l’Oeil. Will Labyrinthes match the latter's three Juno nominations, a Felix award for Revelation Of The Year and two at l'Autre Gala ADISQ including Alternative Album Of The Year? And that's not to mention the nomination for the 2006 Polaris Prize – the Canadian equivalent of the Mercury Prize. Well, the boys have spent almost a year writing this third album and the care and attention they've lavished upon it shows. Their off-kilter pop is charming, stunning and daring with lush musical layers and more pace switches than you can keep up with....full text
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